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TIRE TEMPERATURE: WHAT’S SAFE FOR SUMMER TIRES?
Drivers in the north aren’t the only ones who need to know about tire safety in the cold. With recent record-breaking cold snaps, people in warmer climates also need to know how to deal with freezing weather.
Summer tires were designed to deliver enhanced handling in warm environments. When the temperatures drop, the rubber compounds in summer tires naturally become more rigid, resembling plastic more than rubber. This change is called “glass transition,” and it occurs when the ambient temperature dips to 45 Fahrenheit or below.
The same tires that cornered well in moderate temperatures now may slide across the road surface. If you’re an aggressive driver or like pushing the speed limit, this problem will become more pronounced and can easily lead to a skid or spin-out.
While glass transition isn’t permanent, it’s not without long-term effects. A tire’s performance will return to normal once the tire is brought back to a safe ambient temperature, even though a single instance can cause a crack the tire’s tread. The cracks may seem minor, but they can quickly evolve into more significant structural issues that can lead to failure.
Keep in mind that the rubber of a tire doesn’t have to be in use for it to become damaged. If you opt to store your summer tires during the winter as a precaution, make sure they are stored properly – preferably in a garage or basement that remains above 45° F. Carefully inspect them before reinstallation when the seasons change. If cracking does occur, vehicle and tire manufacturers alike recommend replacing the tire.
Vehicles do not always come with a spare tire, but you might not notice this until it’s too late (when you are on the side of the road with a flat). It’s important to always have a back-up plan. Tireamerica.com has a guide created to help you understand the best options for you.